Kirk Skaugen reveals why Intel made touch mandatory for Haswell Ultrabooks

We were able to sit down with Intel's PC chief, Kirk Skaugen, and chew through the revelations and news that were announced at the press conference the day before. We wanted to know if Ultrabooks will eventually replace Laptops, what was the motivation behind the decision to make Haswell Ultrabooks touch only and if there's one form factor from the several available that's winning the popularity war. Share our curiosity? After the break is where you need to be.

So, why did the company feel the need to make touch a mandatory component of Haswell-running Ultrabooks, given the added cost and power-demands associated with the hardware. His response was that in the company's back-room studies, when they gave testers fifty tasks to complete using Windows 8, nearly 80 percent of the time, they chose touch over keyboard, mouse or trackpad.

He added that making it mandatory "eliminates game playing by the OEMs," who would otherwise be releasing twice as many devices (some with touch, some without) which confuses consumers. The move also provides a level of consistency, he said that "all of [the] premium SKUs have touch, where today it's a bit spotty -- so, now, you can get a $449 Celeron [laptop] with touch, but then some Ultrabooks don't have touch and it kinda confuses users a little."

We asked him on when he expected the Ultrabook to replace the laptop as the de-facto standard for a notebook computer. It seems that the company does have a perception problem in this area, as he says:

"We could have been clearer on this, but we're not trying to rebrand the notebook as the Ultrabook. [...] I would think of the Ultrabook as an aspirational category of $599-and-above devices, that treads a bow-wave of machines underneath it. We're not just trying to make the world Ultrabook."

Finally, we wanted to know if the wide and varied range of Ultrabook designs has been accepted by consumers and if one had proven to be more popular than any of the others. He said that it was too early to point to one design that become synonymous with the name, but, so far, detachables like the new North Cape reference design are winning, with everything else an even split beneath it.